Oliver: Let's tackle bullying problem as a community
Although many years have passed, the emotional scars remain.
As a victim of bullying in junior high school, I am all too well aware what it is like to be an outcast, an outsider, a “them” to the popular girls’ “us.”
The sarcastic sing-song taunt of “Joan, you’re my hero” would follow me from class to class each and every school day. How I longed for the cinderblock walls to swallow me up so I wouldn’t have to hear it anymore.
When it wasn’t the open taunts, it was the painful whispers. And prank calls at all times of the night. And wild rumors that allegedly were started by me or that were about me.
Pimply-faced, bucktoothed and badly dressed, I was an easy target for abuse.
During gym, basketballs whizzed by my head. In class, rulers smacked me as I walked between desks.
How I wished, as I sat alone, staring across the playground for the umpteenth time during recess, that the earth would swallow me or my tormentors.
My anger and despair made the choice clear: them or me.
I could do nothing to them. Telling my teachers had only made it worse, or so I thought at the time.
Perhaps the world would be better without me, I reasoned.
My world at age 12 was a small one. It was made smaller when I could not see beyond the horror I endured day after day after day.
In the end, I did not go through with the plans I was making. To this day, I am grateful that I held on just a little while longer.
After all, not every bullying victim does.
Phoebe Prince and Amanda Diane Cummings, both 15-year-olds about whom I’ve written in the past, did not. Both ended their lives far too soon.
Neither girl will learn the lessons that I did. It will get better.
The world was a bigger place than my tormentors would have had me believe.
Neither girl will learn that there are people and places that would have embraced them and made them feel special and accepted, not worthless and weird. They just had to make it that far.
That’s why it’s so heartbreaking when I hear the stories of other bullying victims.
The world today is so much more sophisticated, with so many more weapons that bullies can wield against their victims.
As a community, we can’t sit idly by.
How can we help our young people hang on? Or better yet, how can we prevent bullying before it starts?
We here at the Northwest Herald would like to find and share the answers to those questions.
And we’d like your help.
If you are or were a victim of bullying, we’d like to hear your story. If you were a bully but have turned the page, we’d like to hear from you, too.
Send me an email or call me at the number listed below.
Together, we just might make a difference.
At the very least, we have to try.
• Joan Oliver is a community editor for the Northwest Herald. She can be reached at 815-526-4552 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.